The prize money and trophies awarded for the Melbourne Cup have changed a lot over the years, with this event now worth over $6 million. The trophies given to owners, trainers and jockeys have also evolved a lot over time, with the inaugural winner simply given a gold watch in 1861. The first proper Melbourne Cup trophy was awarded in 1865, in the form of an elaborate silver bowl on a custom made stand. In the early years of this race, the trophies were all made in England and sent to Australia especially for the race.
History of the Melbourne Cup Trophy
In 1867, local Victorian jewellers complained to race officials about this matter, saying that a locally made trophy by William Edwards would be both more authentically Australian and superior in design and workmanship. While Melbourne Cup officials did listen to the complaints, instead of awarding the contract to a local jeweller they did not award a trophy at all for the next 8 years.
It was not until 1876 that the first locally made trophy was awarded to a Melbourne Cup winner, made by an immigrant from Austria by the name of Edward Fischer. Made in an Etruscan shape with double handles, this trophy included the name of the winning horse on one side and a picture of a horse in front of a grandstand on the other side. The design of the winning trophy has changed a lot over the years, growing in size to a 15 inch high and 24 inch long trophy in 1891.
Trophies continued to be made in England for a number of years, however, with the last trophy manufactured in England in 1914. A few years later in 1919, the Victorian Racing Club commissioned James Steeth to design the three-handled trophy that has become the iconic Melbourne Cup still used to this day. While a new trophy is made each and every racing season, it becomes the property of the winning owner.
The Present Day Melbourne Cup Trophy
The present day trophy is made from 34 pieces of gold metal that has been beaten for over 200 hours and made by Hardy Brothers. The estimated value of the trophy rose in 2008, with the winning trophy now containing 1.65 kg of 18 carat gold estimated at over $125,000. While the owner of the winning horse is awarded the actual trophy, the winning trainer and jockey also receive a replica of the iconic design each year.